Powershell Remove-Item and symbolic links

Let’s say you’ve got a symbolic link which points to another folder and you want to delete the symbolic link through Powershell. Prepare for some weird stuff! Consider the following test script:

New-Item "SymbolicTest" -Type Directory
Set-Location "SymbolicTest"
New-Item "Source" -Type Directory
Set-Location "Source"
New-Item "Test1.txt"  -Type File
New-Item "Test2.txt"  -Type File
New-Item "Test3.txt"  -Type File
Set-Location "../"
# now some cmd since Powershell can't natively create symbolic links
cmd /c mklink /J `"Target`" `"Source`" 
ls

Let’s check the structure: dir in powershell Okay, so no difference, both are considered directories. Now let’s check with cmd: dir in cmd Okay, weird, cmd understands it. Now let’s try to remove the Target link. Remember, we only want to delete the link, not the contents of the Target folder (and thus implicitly not the contents of the Source folder). With Remove-Item you can delete items. Let’s try it out:

Remove-Item .\Target

This yields the following output:

deletion powershell

Wait what? Deletion of the children. Just for the sake of it I typed Y. This yielded another error: deletion powershell force prompt Okay, again, with -Force powershell content gone Target was gone, however also the contents of Source. Auch? Now what? Well, reading through the documentation of Remove-Item I found nothing about symbolic links.

So what now? Seems that Powershell doesn’t have knowledge about symbolic links. It wasn’t taken into account. He just follows the link like it’s a normal directory.

So what’s the solution? I decided to use the good old cmd (from Powershell!):

cmd /c rmdir .\Target

rmdir works!

Marvelous. Problem solved!

Actually, in retrospect, since I needed to use cmd to create the link, it would have made more sense to also just delete the link with cmd!

Have a good one,

-Kristof

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